November 17, 2017

California Enacts Parental Leave Requirement for Small Employers


Currently, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) requires companies with 50+ employees to allow qualified employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave to bond with a new child.

Effective January 1, 2018, the New Parent Leave Act (SB 63), extends the requirement to provide unpaid parental leave benefits to employees working at smaller companies or at smaller worksites for larger companies.

What does the new law require? Covered employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave to qualified employees.  Before the leave starts, employer must also provide a guarantee that the employee will return to the same (or comparable) job at the end of the leave period.  If this guarantee is not provided, the employer is deemed to have refused to allow the leave.

How do I know if my company is covered? The law defines covered employers as those with 20 or more employees.

Who is an eligible employee? In order to qualify for unpaid parental leave rights, the employee must:

  • work at a covered worksite;
  • have worked with the company for at least 12 months; and
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer in the previous 12-month period.

What is a covered worksite? A worksite with 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius is covered by the law.  That may mean that employees working remotely, far from co-workers, may not qualify for unpaid protected parental leave, even if the employer meets the 20 employee threshold.

What qualifies as parental leave? The employee must be taking time off to bond with a new child within one year of that child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Does the new law only provide unpaid leave for bonding with a new child? Yes. While CFRA provides unpaid protected leave rights for reasons other than parental leave, such as the serious health condition of an employee or qualified family member, the new law is limited to bonding with a new child.

Besides letting the employee have time off, does the employer have any other obligations? While the leave under this new law is unpaid, an employee must be allowed to utilize accrued vacation pay, paid sick time, and other accrued paid time off during the parental leave. In addition, similar to CFRA, the employer must maintain and pay for group health coverage for employees during the duration of the parental leave at the same level or under the same conditions that would have been provided had the employee continued to work. Finally, the new law prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee for exercising their parental leave rights.

California Employers Should…

If you are an employer with 20-49 employees, contact Goodwin’s California Labor & Employment team to determine if you are covered by the law and for assistance with implementing new leave policies to comply with the requirements of the new law.